Florida State Capitol
Florida State CapitoliStock

The Florida Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that defines antisemitism in Florida law, The Associated Press reports.

“Outbreaks of antisemitism can be a harbinger of deep societal trouble and reflect that extremism and violence are eminent. It is dangerous and unacceptable,” said Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, the bill’s sponsor. “When there is hateful behavior against anyone, it can quickly become a societal endemic.”

The bill language was taken from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. It defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jewish individuals which may be expressed as hatred toward such individuals. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and their property and toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

“This bill is one method to combat antisemitism,” Berman said, according to AP. “Defining it and codifying it makes a clear statement that we are going to identify, confront and call out antisemitism.”

She said the bill doesn’t infringe on free speech rights and doesn’t prevent people from criticizing Israel as it would any other country. But by having it in law, it will allow law enforcement to use it when prosecuting hate crimes.

The House passed the bill last month, but would need to consider minor changes by the Senate before sending the measure to Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, which said he will review the bill once he receives it.

Florida, like other US states, has seen a surge in antisemitic incidents in since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

Earlier this month, a man was arrested for allegedly beating up an elderly Jewish man who was returning from synagogue because of his religious background in Broward County.

In November, a Sarasota man was charged with calling a Jewish organization and threatening to kill Jewish people.

Florida is among several states seeking to define antisemitism. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a similar bill last month.